A BLESSING OR A CURSE, WHICH?
By Henry A. White.
If there is any one thing on which Big Business prides itself it is efficiency. By this I mean its ability to exact the maximum amount of labor from the workers at the minimum cost to itself. The large corporations maintain schools of efficiency; the department stores, large and small, do not want anyone who is not an efficient “money grabber.” The owners of large farms and ranches have caught up the cry for efficiency and are exerting themselves, in season and out of season, to effect and maintain it. This concentrated effort to increase the efficiency of the workers is not that the workers may derive any lasting benefit from their increased skill and speed, but to increase the profits of Big Business. It is true that, incidentally, the workers derive a small benefit thereby; but this benefit is inconsequential when compared with the profits which accrue to Big Business, Is a system which speeds the workers up to the top notch and takes the greater portion of their labor for itself a blessing or a curse to the workers?
The welfare and uplift work carried on by Big Business is frankly acknowledged by it to be for the purpose of increasing profits and not for the benefit of its employes. It also serves a good purpose, so Big Business says, in keeping the workers blinded to their true condition-that they are wage-slaves-and also keeps them contented with their conditions, long working hours, poor pay and poverty The welfare work done by Big Business for communities is poor in quality and meagre in quantity; and in some instances criminal. Here is an example of this kind of welfare work brought to my notice a few days ago, which is illuminating. The president of one of the largest department stores in the United States was approached for a subscription to help build a home for fallen women. He being a righteous and upright man and having pity and sympathy for these poor unfortunates, said he would donate the land, pay for the building and maintain the institution for a certain number of years. His offer was gladly accepted and the home was provided. But this godly and upright man did even more than he promised. To make sure that the home was provided with inmates he cut the wages of several thousands of his girl employes 10 per cent. This is an example of the welfare work of Big Business. Is it a good or a bad thing for the workers?
And what about charity, organized or unorganized Tolstoi once said to a rich man, “If you can afford to do so much for the poor you must have robbed them pretty thoroughly first.” There is the whole story in a nut-shell. Big Business robs Paul of dollars and pays Peter in pennies, doled out in the shape of charity. How long will the workers allow themselves to be robbed of what is justly theirs and accept in return the ‘charity’ of Big Business?
Business—big and Little – is a crooked game and he who goes into the game must play it according to the rules. No man, today, transacts business on a basis of honesty; he cannot and survive. The majority of business men know this and adapt themselves to circumstances. Those who do not know it just as surely play the game crooked or go down to defeat.
Big Business sees to it that it derives a substantial profit from every commodity it manufactures and if the workers stand in the way of profits they are scarified be they efficient or inefficient. This being the case, how can efficiency, welfare work and charity, as carried out by Big Business, be anything else but breeders of poverty and crime, a menace and not a blessing to the workers is it any wonder that those who are being exploited and robbed turn on the exploiters and robbers occasionally and give them a taste of their own medicine?
Big Business and its attendant evils, efficiency for profit, welfare work as an anaesthetic and charity for a palliative, result from the private monopoly of the means of life; the bestowal on a few men of the privilege of robbing all other men, and nothing will avail against them but to abolish Big Business, root and branch, and put in its place a system under which the workers get the full equivalent of their toil. All the philanthropic work, the noble deeds and the good intentions will go for naught until this is done and poverty and crime will keep on increasing in leaps and bounds.